I never would have guessed it before I dove into it, but Freedom Wars is my unequivocal 2014 Vita Game of the Year. It didn’t have an easy road to get here, by any means. I almost didn’t buy the game! I had a policy that I had held to until the purchase of this game to never pay more than $20 for a game and to only buy a game on release if it has a PlayStation Plus discount. I resisted the hype all through the months and weeks leading up to the game, swearing that this game wouldn’t be for me and I’d try it later on with a sale. I have after all very limited experience with Japanese games of any sort, less than half a dozen as I sit here thinking about it. My only other experience with monster hunting style games was the Soul Sacrifice series and those games proved to be too difficult and time consuming for myself to play. Surely, I thought to myself, Freedom Wars would be no different and I’d have been out $30, money better spent on a variety of other games I could enjoy. Release day hit. I stood strong, resisting the temptation...then all hell broke loose. Person after person was fawning over the game on Reddit or Twitter. The game seemingly could do no wrong. Still, I wasn’t convinced. It would be impossible for this trend to continue, without a doubt there’ll be some game breaking issue or surge of negativity about something. Except, neither thing happened. Finally, I could hold out no longer. I sought to justify the purchase to myself. The time for buying and getting the limited time DLC was ending. I was supporting the Vita I love by buying one of its most important games on launch. The game was technically on a permanent 25% off sale as these sorts of games usually release at $40. 25% is better than most PS+ discounts on launch. There wasn’t a reason to not buy the game that I could tell myself to outweigh these things, so I hopped on the PlayStation Store to purchase it. Fastforward to now, I obviously have no regrets about the purchase. Freedom Wars is the total package that anyone could ever want and ask for in a game. It has a fairly meaty story that can take you 30 hours to beat, a multiplayer with a variety of modes to play with friends or just random people, along with a massive post-game to round it all out. I’m a pretty casual gamer, so maybe 30 hours is too long for the average person to get themselves through it, but even dropping 33% of the total to account for that off leaves you with a solid 20 hours of content waiting to be played by you. While we’re talking about the story mode’s length, I should add now that the story inside of it is really is nothing to write home about. Early on I didn’t appreciate it much, in fact I thought it dragged on for too long of stretches, but as the game neared completion I felt that it was put together well. It isn’t as deep or as gripping of a story as Soul Sacrifice Delta’s, but it does its job well enough. In fact, in one aspect I believe it does stand out and make itself felt the most. I consider the way [most of] the characters are presented in the story or generally in the game to be exemplary. This praise does not just apply to the main characters. There are dozens of other minor characters to be interacted with, each with their own personality and thoughts that you’re able to explore. You don’t even have to talk one on one, merely listen in to what another character is saying to be given any of a wide range of thought processes running through your mind. This game is something that needs to be experienced firsthand to truly understand and appreciate. More than making up for the story’s overall lack of pizzazz is the setting you find yourself placed into, which is one you’ll never forget. Freedom Wars sets you in a futuristic, dystopian era imprisoned for 1,000,000 years for the crime of having lost your memory thus losing everything your Panopticon had invested into you. The slightest of actions you have not earned the right to do, things as simple as reclining, will be met with an immediate, harsh response with you finding your sentence lengthened. The Panopticon’s mascot who will track your progress as you move along in the story is a wonderful little bear called Percy Propa. There’s more to the setting I could describe, but it’d be a shame to spoil everything on you should you pick this game up for yourself. Should you be so inclined to try them out, the multiplayer options available to you in Freedom Wars should be to your liking. If you find playing single player a bore, you can actually play the entire story courtesy of online or ad-hoc co-op. Once a mission is completed online you receive a certificate of completion that automatically applies to the regular game. Quite the nice feature indeed. You could even go a la carte, merely getting a friend or friends to help you with the missions that are a thorn in your side and doing the rest on your own. It’s totally up to you! Aside from co-op, you can also do such things as 4 on 4 PvP matches or raids on other Panopticons. If you raid opposition Panopticons you’ll reduce their total resources, thus giving your beloved Panopticon a better situation in the worldwide rankings. All multiplayer endeavors will help you whittle away at your sentence mission by mission, year by year. Likely excusing the story mode’s brevity is Freedom Wars post-game. You have hundreds of thousands of years to continue working off your sentence to achieve some semblance of freedom in your life. Since you’ve cleared all the codes, you’re free to make use of any and all resources that you collect while in battle to refine weapons, manufacture other weapons or accessories, and create medical supplies. While its not a requirement to engage in the activity, coming this far will have a high probability of preparing you for Special Operations which are meant for the elite sinners of the world to wage battle in. You’ll need your wits about you as well as your weapons to come out alive, should you be so lucky to do so. What I haven’t mentioned yet and couldn’t do this game justice by not talking at length about is the combat. In each mission, you will, at the least, be fighting gigantic robots called “Abductors”. These are incredibly powerful war machines built for destruction, that you as a sinner must defeat. Abductors can have any number of weapon systems, shields, or ‘melee’ attacks in their repertoire. For those reasons and more you need to be careful when attempting to take one - or multiple - down. Another danger in fighting them is if your accessory gets killed and isn’t revived by you or an ally within a certain time the abductor will capture it. If you don’t recapture it within the time limit you lose your accessory and must do a special mission to get him or wait a few missions for him to be returned to you by your allies who went for you themselves. Generally, combat in Freedom Wars is very fast paced and filled to the brim with action from the moment it begins to the moment it ends. There are times you can get into drawn out battles, running right up against the 45 minute time limit you are given, but those times aren’t too frequent in my experience. I consider it to be a much more quickly paced game than Soul Sacrifice Delta, but perhaps not quite or maybe on par with Ys: Memories of Celceta. Combat is easier than Soul Sacrifice Delta’s, but harder than Ys: Memories of Celceta’s. There are three ways you can approach combat in the game. The first option is what I personally choose to do, which is treating the game as a Third Person Shooter. I load up with my EZ Katze and Portable Cannon to kick Abductor ass. Another way to approach the game is full on melee. When you’re a melee fighter you are actually climbing onto the abductor (or, if you’re wanting to be way less cool running around its feet) doing damage to it and in some cases tearing pieces off of it. As you can imagine, it takes a great amount of concentration and skill to simply do this, much less do it well. The final option which you may have worked out by now, is to do a combination of both or simply alternate between the methods as you feel like it. This requires much more time being invested in resource harvesting and weapon crafting, but it could all be worth it in the end if that what you enjoy. Whatever you choose as your way to play, you’ll have dozens of different options to test out and figure out what works best for you. There’s more to tell about the wonders of Freedom Wars, but if you’ve read this far I commend you and you deserve a break soon from my ramblings. So, to close it all up, I obviously believe that of the games I played this year this was the one that held its head the highest above the others. It offered me an experience I never had before and likely will never see again except in a sequel, which I very much hope gets done and sooner rather than later. If you have read this far and you don’t yet own the game, all I have left to say to you is: What are you waiting for? Go buy Freedom Wars. For The Great Good!